When we left off, it was the early morning hours of the first day of my 47th year. I had practically zero sleep, a very sick little girl by my side, and the calls and text messages were starting to flow to wish me a happy birthday. I don’t mean to seem unappreciative, but in retrospect, I wish I had turned off my phone so I could focus on my priority that all of my well wishers were completely unaware of. Under the circumstances, I was selective about which calls I actually answered, and I didn’t dare log onto Facebook.

I had scrolled through my overnight text messages while feeding the baby breakfast and tending to my sick daughter. The first phone call I fielded that day was from my father. Bless his heart, he was so excited to be the first person to talk to me on my birthday. The only catch is that he was calling to wish me a happy 44th. I laughed and thanked him and explained that he was off by two years. I was thankful though that he missed the mark in the right direction and made me younger than I actually am. We both enjoyed a good laugh, I thanked him for the call, and went back to tending to my kids. Little did I know at the time that this slight mathematical error would prove to be the highlight of my day.

Shortly after ending the call with the man I most admire in the world, my 5-month-old son joined the puke party. He, like his older sister was in the early stages of a day full of projectile purging. The poor little guy had no idea what was happening, he just knew instinctively that it wasn’t good. My 4-year-old had slowed down emptying what remained of her stomach but she was still pretty sick.

I looked outside at one point and saw that it was a beautiful, sunny day in the high 60’s. It was by far the nicest day of the year to this point. Theoretically, this would be the perfect day to spend a birthday with four of my five children doing something fun. But I quickly came to the harsh realization that we would not be going outside today.

The collective barfing continued through the day yielding several more baths, showers, wardrobe changes, and laundry. I grabbed every old sheet and blanket I could find in the house and covered as much of the furniture as possible like a 95-year-old widow who wasn’t expecting company.

By around 4:00 P.M., my 11-year-old  daughter approached me looking as if she had already been embalmed. She was now the next act to take the main stage at Puke-A-Palooza. Being a bit older than the others, she at least had the wherewithal to make it to the bathroom for most of her episodes. Having blonde hair down to her backside though, I did have to hold it back and do a bit of rinsing before we got a chance to put it in a ponytail. This is around the time my wife sent me a text message on her lunch break asking me how my day was going. I responded simply; “fine”. There was no reason for her to know what was going on at home yet.

I had a feeling at this point that the day was going to get worse before it got better. And as prophetic as that thought proved to be, I still managed to jinx myself. While talking to my sister, I made the mistake of mentioning that my 3-year-old daughter had not gotten sick at all. Moments after I hung up, as if on cue, my little Flower launched what appeared to be a year’s worth of meals from her cute little face. As I cleaned the newest batch of gut waste up, I honestly expected to find her toes in the puddle. She had never been sick before in her life, and seemed befuddled by what was going on. I actually seriously considered lighting a single birthday candle for myself and making a wish as I blew it out that I could take the illness from all of children and put it in me. It was worth a shot as I now found myself the conductor of the Upchuck Symphony Orchestra doing an all day show at the Vomitorium. There was now so much simultaneous barfing going on in my home that it was like pledge week on fraternity row. Fortunately it was nice enough outside that I could open a window or two to keep my home from smelling like Jabba the Hut’s dirty laundry hamper.

The most unusual part about this day was that my children very rarely get sick. Perhaps it’s our old school, less than conventional parenting techniques of letting kids be kids, but for the most part, they seem to have the immune systems of cockroaches. Especially the 3-year-old, whom I’d be lying if I said had never eaten a bug or a piece of tree bark. She’s so freakishly immune to things that I call her the Keith Richards of the clan. We never get really crazy like many modern day parents about shielding our children from germs or certain foods. I’m not saying by any means that we allow them to get in harms way, but a few million years of evolution paired with some common sense dictates that the only way to build immunity to certain things is through exposure. I don’t know if I’m right or wrong, but my kids almost never get sick. And I know what some of you are thinking, but they all ate different things, so it’s not food born.

You’d think it would be just the opposite in my house with a baby cutting teeth, kids in two different elementary schools, and a wife who works in a hospital, it’s essentially like living in a giant 4-bedroom petri dish. I might as well be illegally importing exotic animals from third world countries and fencing them through my living room as pets. Today, for the first time, my little tribe of rhesus monkeys were more than just carriers or hosts. My band of immortals were showing me that they were actually human, and it was breaking my heart.

I think this is a pretty good place to take a break for now. I’ll pick it up from here in the next episode. Thanks for playing along, Syd Nichols